Part Deux: Why I will never join IT

In the continuing story of my hardware woes, I ordered and installed a new motherboard. Things went splendidly from there, and the install of Vista 64-bit went 200% more smoothly than the install in my previous entry – the batch updates worked this time, leading me to believe that there was more wrong with the other motherboard than just the freezes and lockups…

Unfortunately, a new problem has presented itself: whenever I fire up a graphics-intensive application (say, Quake Live or Sins of a Solar Empire), the application crashes and Vista gives me the following error message:

“Display driver nvlddmkm stopped responding and has successfully recovered.”

In doing some searching around, it seemed that this is a pretty widespread problem without any solutions. I’ve already contacted EVGA support (who, with the installation of my newest motherboard, are now the manufacturers of both my graphics cards and my motherboard…so why I’m having graphics issues is absolutely beyond my comprehension) and so far they’ve been less than helpful, giving me the usual litany of suggestions: update Windows, update your nVidia driver, are your cards defective, blah blah blah.

So let’s do a differential, shall we?

Windows Vista 64-bit: No. Before installing the new mainboard but after installing Vista 64-bit the first time, I ran Quake Live without any problems. The problems only cropped up after installing the new mainboard.

EVGA Motherboard: Could be. This is, after all, the only thing that has changed. I’ve installed all the drivers for the mainboard, even updated the BIOS. No change.

EVGA Graphics Cards: Very doubtful. I’ve tested both independently, and the problem is present with either one. And the prospect that I somehow damaged both cards in swapping them between motherboards is statistically nonexistent. Furthermore, I used one of EVGA’s own diagnostic tools to scale way back on the cards’ clock speeds. If the cards were the problem, this should have produced a change – there was literally 0 improvement.

Software Driver: Most likely. I performed a test where I completely uninstalled the nVidia display driver, then tried to play Quake Live. I turned down all the video settings to their lowest and ran in the lowest possible resolution. It was still very choppy, and the sound skipped, but I was able to play. No crashes. It’s most likely an incompatibility between the nVidia driver and the motherboard (though this makes no logistic sense whatsoever…EVGA made the motherboard, and the video cards).

The only other possibility I came across in my online scavenger hunts was memory. I hard-set the timings for my RAM in the BIOS, but realized I forgot to specify the voltage. Everest monitoring indicated my memory’s voltage hovered around 1.9V, which is about 0.2V lower than my memory’s technical specs indicate. I’m going to test hard-setting the voltage, but I’m not optimistic (EDIT: testing this yielded no change, as expected).

Also, does anyone know what the voltages for the Northbridge should be? I figure I should hard-set that as well.

Yeah. Upshot: IT sucks. Never ever ever ever will I go into the industry, if I can help it. I always feel like this cat whenever I’m troubleshooting computer problems:

funny-pictures-cat-attempts-the-impossible

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About Shannon Quinn

Oh hai!
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4 Responses to Part Deux: Why I will never join IT

  1. magsol says:

    Update:

    I performed a clean install on a blank partition of 32-bit Vista, and installed only the latest 32-bit nVidia driver (182.50) and my Realtek sound driver. I had no problems firing up any graphics-intensive application; there were no crashes. I then reformatted the partition and installed 64-bit Vista, again with only the latest 182.50 64-bit nVidia driver and the Realtek sound driver. This time, Quake Live crashed on startup.

    So it would seem the problem is most likely a faulty interaction between Vista 64-bit and the new motherboard by way of the nVidia graphics driver, since the old motherboard didn’t have such hiccups with 64-bit Vista. Furthermore, as I’d mentioned in the post, I could play Quake Live on 64-bit Vista and the new motherboard if I uninstalled the nVidia driver.

    Now, if only I could find a fix…

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  4. Jelle says:

    This problem still exists to this day, I had it happen to a customer’s laptop at work yesterday. 32-bit Vista, GeForce 8400M GS.

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